Women’s 100 Training Ride: The Peaks

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Last Sunday saw a Rapha Women’s 100 training ride in the UK’s hilly Peak District, a tough 65km in preparation for the forthcoming ride in July. Nonnas Italian restaurant in Chesterfield acted as a suitably Giro-inspired rider HQ, welcoming the ladies who enjoyed traditional Italian coffees and pastries before rolling out with a Jaguar support car, containing both soigneur and mechanic.

Nestling on the edge of the Peak District, the elevation for the ride was akin to a ruffled tablecloth, up and down and up and down consistently. We headed out towards Eyam via Grindleford in the grey and chilly climate before we looped back towards Chesterfield through the glorious Chatsworth Park to the promise of fresh pasta and viewing of stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia. Chesterfield Cathedral famously has a crooked Spire, its bizarre tower looming on the horizon like a witches hat, viewable for quite some distance. Growing up in the area, I remember as a child adults telling us the spire was crooked because the devil himself had sat on it once.

On this ride, the devil was not to be found on the Cathedral Spire, but rather on a 1.5 mile stretch of road, a 10% average climb called Sir William Hill Road. The gentlemen’s La Squadra route sensibly eschewed climbing this mammoth but we ladies pushed on and tackled what could only be described as a ‘satanic’ summit. Ten years of living in the relatively flat south certainly left my legs struggling up this beast.

Thankfully after such a trouncing on this hill, tired legs only had to turn easily to the descent into Eyam, where snacks and caffeine awaited weary riders at the Rapha H-Van. Snacks consumed, coffees drunk, and with time for a very cheeky nip of French brandy and we were on our way again, regouping and ready for the last leg of the ride. Drizzle and wind soon became the order of the day, with punishing gusts battering each group of women as we trundled on. There is certainly something to be said for the toughness of this pocket of Northern riders, perhaps it was the constant rain that inspired me to think of that other local hero, Dame Ellen MacArthur.

As I observed some seriously impressive riding on some truly nasty hills from the La Squadra riders, I thought to myself perhaps its something in the water up here. These ladies are tough. Despite this, smiles and good humor remained. I enjoyed a chat with a classy rouleur called Mel, merrily chatting away regarding the virtues of all components Italian as if in sheer defiance of the increasingly grim conditions as we climbed further towards Ashford in the Water.

Sitting on the wheel of Fran “Fran Ullrich” Millar, myself and Heather were dutifully towed up and across a rather bleak and blustery moor, before we began a wonderful screaming descent back down towards C-Town. Camaraderie was King (or rather Queen) in the closing kilometers, working together, and cursing the seemingly endless vertical ascension. Back at Nonnas we tucked into plates of beautiful pasta and refueled with some much needed hot chocolate. 65km certainly didn’t feel like 65km, such undulating terrain and weather provided a smattering of, dare I say, ‘epic’ to this ride. How wonderful it was to share such a journey with so many friendly, fierce and fast women. And I’m sure these ladies will have a very special Peaks route up their arm warmers come July 7th.

With thanks to Nonnas for pre and post-ride fuel and to Jaguar for providing the support car.

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